Regional Cooperation: The Key to a Connected Richmond

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The new year brings new efforts for regional cooperation in Metro Richmond. One of these efforts is being lead by State Delegate Manoli Loupassi, who is the only delegate in Virginia to represent the City of Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield.  According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, Loupassi is proposing legislation that would give Chesterfield and Henrico equal representation on the Richmond Metropolitan Authority (RMA) board. This change has been on the legislative agenda for Henrico and Chesterfield since the beginning of the 48-year-old institution, which mainly operates toll roads in Metro Richmond.  The legislation would require that all three jurisdictions agree on a project before it could be undertaken.

Such legislation could pave the way for a larger Metro Richmond transit authority. Regional cooperation is vital for the Richmond metro area to obtain federal funds for transportation and infrastructure development.  That’s why Loupassi is seeking to expand the authority of the RMA or to form a new regional body. According to a recent article in Richmond Magazine, Loupassi will introduce legislation into the General Assembly that would join Richmond localities in a partnership to manage and maintain roads shared by all Metro Richmond residents.  Loupassi is calling this new body the Richmond Regional Transit Authority. Though it would not initially include public transit, Loupassi sees it as a first step to a group that would one day administer public transit in the greater Metro region.

RVA Rapid Transit supports taking steps to achieve the goal of connecting our region using an efficient, effective system of rapid mass transit.  The need for public transit and the job access and economic development it provides is becoming increasingly evident to both city and county citizens. Chesterfield county alone has seen a 75% increase in its poverty rate over the last ten years.  Many of these individuals need access to job training and employment through public transportation. And regional businesses need access to the workforce that would be available via a rapid transit system.

The Richmond Regional Planning District Commission (RRPDC), recently held its annual breakfast, where it laid out its  Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for the Richmond Region. A need for greater access to transportation was one of the main findings of the study. The study found that 18% of households in the City of Richmond alone do not have cars, and 27% have only one car.  CEDS pointed out that the Mayor’s Anti-Poverty Commission called for the development “of a functional regional transit system.”  The CEDS recommended beginning with incremental steps such as giving GRTC control of bus route changes instead of having city Council approve them, a recommendation that has been implemented since the report was written.

It’s encouraging to see Delegate Loupassi, other elected representatives and government administrators working to create a more prosperous, connected and unified Metro Richmond. But our elected officials and the civil servants who implement policy are constrained by what they believe to be politically possible and what they believe their constituents support. Bringing rapid transit to Metro Richmond is more than possible as long as residents of the region raise their voices and let their representatives know that exceptional public transit is a priority. In the coming months we will be organizing opportunities for you to make your voice heard, so be sure to stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons